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Title: 'Lean[ing] into transcendence' : transformations of the sacred in South African, Zimbabwean and Nigerian literatures
Author: Cumpsty, Rebekah Lindiwe Levitt
ISNI:       0000 0004 5990 1882
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2016
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Enchantment is a defining feature our postcolonial, globalised world and the literary is where much of this wonder is registered and celebrated. Thus this thesis attends to the postcolonial dynamic of sacred and secular experience as it is represented in contemporary African literatures. Debates around the secular and postsecular are long standing in the fields of religious studies, anthropology and philosophy, but as yet underappreciated in literary studies. I develop a hermeneutic of the imminent sacred as a way to read the constitutive and recuperative gestures subjects make as they assert a sense of belonging in spaces of globalised modernity. The texts are grouped thematically. In response to Chris Abani and Yvonne Vera’s work I articulate how the ritual dimensions of lyrical prose and ritual attention to the corporeal form sacralises the body. Phaswane Mpe and Teju Cole incorporate African epistemologies into the resignification of their cities and with Ivan Vladislavić, the streets are sacralised. Marlene van Niekerk and J. M. Coetzee convey the anxieties of settler colonialism and a love of land reinscribed as sublime. Collectively, the novels I discuss reflect patterns of existential anxiety that emerge from difficulties of belonging, and I trace the ritualised and sacralising strategies of incorporation that seek to locate the subject. These novels radically disrupt the epistemological and ontological modalities of globalised ‘secular’ literary production and intervene in the recuperation of the sacred as a mode of incorporation and resistance. Recent scholarship in African literatures has overlooked these distinctly postsecular negotiations and the ways in which the sacred is reinvested in contemporary African fiction in order to instantiate intimate, local alternatives to the teleology of secular modernity. Thus I use the imminent sacred as a reading strategy that foregrounds these postsecular negotiations and the interrelations of care and vulnerability that motivate sacralisation.
Supervisor: Attwell, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available